Scotland set for more disruption after biggest snowfall in 20 years

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Scotland is bracing itself for further transport disruption Friday after the biggest snowfall for 20 years brought the Central Belt to a near standstill.

Thousands of children will get a third day off school Friday in the biggest educational weather disruption for at least a decade.

A woman makes her way through the snow in Balloch, Scotland. Freezing weather conditions dubbed the "Beast from the East" combines with Storm Emma. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell

A woman makes her way through the snow in Balloch, Scotland. Freezing weather conditions dubbed the "Beast from the East" combines with Storm Emma. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell

Last night, soldiers were drafted in to transport frontline NHS staff to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the capital’s Western General Hospital. The Ministry of Defence said it was providing several 4x4 vehicles and drivers to get around 200 clinical and support staff to and from work.

Virtually no flights have operated from Glasgow Airport for two days during its most significant weather disruption for 30 years and following its greatest ever snowfall. Red Cross volunteers helped stranded passengers bed down for a second night while trucks of snow were moved by staff working waist deep.

Edinburgh Airport suffered its worst weather problems since 2011, while Prestwick handled many diverted flights, including from Dubai.

All of the airports hope to resume flights today if there is not more snow.

However, some airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair, will not start operating departing flights from Edinburgh until lunchtime.

On the roads, a bitter row erupted after First Minister accused haulage firms of contributing to jams which more than 1,000 motorists stranded in their vehicles on the M80 overnight. The ordeal lasted up to 17 hours for some after several lorries jack-knifed between Glasgow and Stirling. Police, firefighters and volunteers handed out water and food.

Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs: “There were far more HGVs on that road than there should have been when a red warning was in place.”

However, Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said her suggestion that HGVs should not use trunk roads unless it was absolutely unavoidable “is naïve in the extreme”.

He said: “In many cases, particularly in isolated areas, an HGV will be the only vehicle with the capability of getting through. The drivers of these vehicles should be applauded – not pilloried.”

Elsewhere, major roads closed include the A68 near Jedburgh and at the English Border, and the A1 near Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Police Scotland saw 999 calls increase by 50 per cent to 1,892 in 24 hours.

They came amid the Met Office’s first red severe weather warning for snow since 2010, issued when there is a danger to life.

Operational meteorologist Martin Bowles told The Scotsman: “This has been a remarkable snow event for the Central Belt, probably the most significant one since the 1990s.”

A red warning was issued for south-west England and south Wales as Storm Emma moves in, hitting the south coast.

The storms claimed their tenth victim UK-wide yesterday as a seven-year-old girl was fatally injured after a car hit a house in Cornwall.

Soldiers from 3 Rifles and 2 Scots, based in Dreghorn Barracks and Penicuik, worked through the night to transport NHS Lothian staff to work, following a special request by NHS Lothian to the Scottish Government.

Their efforts are being helped by two Police Scotland vehicles and eight from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Westminster’s defence secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our armed forces stand ready to help as Britain is hit by severe weather.”

Scottish Government health secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government’s Resilience Coordination Centre is continuing to work with local authorities and public services across Scotland and ensure they have the support they need and we have acted quickly on a specific request from NHS Lothian.”

Hospital roof tiles at the Princess Royal Maternity in Glasgow blew off yesterday during the blizzard - but no-one was injured.

It is thought that 37cm of snow fell at Glasgow Airport by 4pm yesterday - more than twice the record 18cm which was set 22 years ago.

Airport officials told The Scotsman that that much snow would cover the Hampden Stadium pitch to a depth of 7m (24ft).

Snowfall in Edinburgh was also near record levels - 16cm at Gogarbank compared to 18cm at the Royal Botanic Garden in 1991.

However, Mr Bowles said the figures may have been exaggerated because of drifting.

A total of 47cm fell in East Kilbride.

Councils keeping all schools closed for a third day today include Glasgow and Edinburgh. Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said: “There has not been anything like this in the last ten years, but health and safety is the most important thing and parents will want to know what’s happening the night before.”

ScotRail will not resume trains on many routes across the Central Belt until at least mid-morning today.

It said: “There won’t be any services in the affected areas during the morning peak as lines need to be tested in the morning to check if they are safe.”

Yesterday, few trains operated while engineers battled to clear tracks covered in feet of snow in places.

Virgin Trains suspended services on the west coast main line between Glasgow and Carlisle for a second day, while all Caledonian Sleeper trains were cancelled again. Even the Glasgow Subway initially ran only a restricted service because of snow covering tracks between the train depot and tunnels.

Dozens spent the night in bus stations, such as at Buchanan Street in Glasgow.

The Scottish Conservatives postponed their conference in Aberdeen today, while many leisure centres, libraries and council services remained shut across the country.

READ MORE: Revealed: The Edinburgh bus driver who averted snow disaster